Cars.

Houses.

Cupcakes.

In all these things, and many others, we’ve got used to thinking: the bigger the better.

But, there’s one area that I’m particularly fed up with seeing things bigger than they should be.

Before you start thinking: “ooh, what a bitch!” No, it’s not women’s bodies, bottoms, or thighs. I’m definitely NOT a fan of the size 0. Hopefully our culture’s obsession with women’s size is gradually petering out. Real life sized models and mannequins are being used more and more by the fashion industry, and it’s filtering down – we are seeing ‘real’ sized clothes on the high street. Hurrah!

While it’s great that fashionable clothes are starting to appear in larger sizes. One thing I’m not a fan of is seeing women wearing clothes that are too big for them.

This habit is all too common amongst women over 40. And, the reason it makes me unhappy is because often it’s a sartorial tactic relied on by women who don’t feel confident about their body or the way they look. It’s a dressing strategy they are using to hide themselves. I call it ‘the BIG cover-up’.

Why covering up doesn’t always work

Women do this in an attempt to ‘hide’ their bodies, because they think they are too big, which is truly depressing. And, ironically, it’s not having the desired result. Because, cloaking yourself in lots of draping, loose fabric, or extra layers usually has the reverse effect. It draws attention to you and makes you look bigger than you really are.

There are two ways that we do the BIG cover-up. The first is deliberate. Sometimes you see women wearing a lovely, snuggly, ENORMOUS throw, wrap or cardigan over the top of the rest of their outfit. Those things are super-cosy and useful if you are going to a conference where the air temperature seems to have been set by the hotel’s live-in penguin.

How it can work for you

In terms of flatteringness (not a word, but you know what I mean) this clothing choice looks very stylish if your body shape is top-heavy. Perhaps you want to disguise your bigger shoulders or your tummy, but you have lovely slim hips and legs and you have paired this voluminous garment with a skinny leg jean or trouser allowing us to see your delightful bottom half. Tick. VG.

If, however, you are pear-shaped, small on top and bigger on the bottom, or you have an hourglass shape, and (this is key) you WANT to look slimmer, I’m afraid it’s a bit of a disaster. That huge blanket wrapped around you is hiding your slimmest part – i.e your waist – and, here comes my mantra: when we can’t clearly see your slimmest part, you automatically look bigger than you are.

Frankly, if there’s a choice between freezing your butt off in a charming, but icy, conference hall, and looking a bit less bulky, you might not care. But, if you do care, here’s one solution: show-off your waist a bit more. You can bring in your waist again by adding a belt over the top of the wrap so that you end up with a loose top half, tight around your waist, and then loose again around your bottom. (The belt is also a useful spot for storing your pistol, tea towel or mobile phone holster, should the need arise.)

The second way is accidental (or subconscious).

Buying clothes in the wrong size

Another thing I have noticed in my clients’ wardrobes is that women over 40 often buy clothes that are too big for them. This could be because you are conscious of your weight, and hoping to cover-up. Or, it could be that as we get older, we look for comfort from our clothes, I understand that and I feel the same, I want to be comfortable in my clothes. But, in seeking comfort, you might be buying and wearing clothes that are too big and make you look bigger.

I often stand a client in front of the mirror and pull her shirt or top in at the waist just to show that if it was a bit smaller it would be far more flattering. Often, we can’t see this for ourselves, but wearing something that is too big, with large volumes of unnecessary fabric will make your body look bigger too.

Check your size, you might have been buying the same size for such a long time that you haven’t realised you are wearing something too big. Next time you are trying a new top or jacket, take a smaller size than normal in with you and just check if it flatters you more than your usual size. I bet it does.

Then go and buy a cupcake. The biggest one you can find.

Helen x

p.s. There are still a few places left at Get Your Style Sorted 2017 which is my one big LIVE event of the year. I share exactly what I do with my 1-1 clients to help them to nail their personal style, feel confident every day and shop for clothes with ease. Full details are here.

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